On Fox News' Big Story, host John Gibson cited the differing opinions of Democratic Sens. John Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton on an Iraq exit strategy as evidence to conclude that the "divide is widening within the Democratic party over the war." Gibson pressed his guest, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Terry McAuliffe, to choose either "Hillary's side" or "the John Kerry side," while failing to note a significant divide among Republicans on the same issue, even though a Republican congressman appeared on the preceding program and called for President Bush to set a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq.
On the June 14 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson seized upon conflicting statements made June 13 by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA) on the question of whether the United States should set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq to proclaim that the "divide is widening within the Democratic party over the war." In an interview with former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Terry McAuliffe, Gibson repeatedly pointed to the disagreement between Clinton and Kerry as evidence that "you're looking at two top Democrats for leadership and you can't get a straight answer," and repeatedly pressed McAuliffe to reveal whether he is on "Hillary's side" or "the John Kerry side." But Gibson overlooked a significant divide among Republicans about when to begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, despite the fact that a Republican congressman appeared on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto -- which directly preceded The Big Story -- and demonstrated that very point by calling on President Bush to establish a timeline for ending the Iraq war.
During separate speeches at a progressive conference in Washington, Clinton said that it was not a "smart strategy" to set a fixed date for withdrawing from Iraq, while Kerry advocated a "hard and fast deadline" to begin a withdrawal. Yet in exclusively focusing on the remarks by Clinton and Kerry, Gibson ignored several instances in which Republican lawmakers have called for the establishment of a timeline, which President Bush opposes -- including one example immediately preceding Gibson's June 14 program, on Your World. On that program, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said the Iraq war planning was "just too vague" and called for the president to submit to Congress "a plan, to tell us when this war will end." Paul co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution with Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-NC) last June that would have required Bush to submit a withdrawal plan by the end of 2005. Other examples of Republican division on Iraq include Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) repeated criticism regarding the war, and the decision in April by Republican Reps. Wayne T. Gilchrest (MD) and Jim Leach (IA) to join Jones and Paul in support of a Democratic resolution -- opposed by the GOP leadership -- calling for a full debate of the Iraq war.
Gibson's characterization was similar to one repeated in several media reports that joined Bush in highlighting a division between some Democrats on the war while ignoring Republican differences of opinion, as Media Matters for America noted.
From the June 14 edition of Fox News' Big Story with John Gibson:
[begin video clip]
CLINTON: Nor do I think it is smart strategy to set a date certain. I do not agree that that is in the best interest of our troops or our country.
KERRY: I am convinced that the only way the Iraqis have moved at any time thus far is with a deadline and I believe we need a hard and fast deadline, not an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces.
[end video clip]
GIBSON: Wow, which is it? The divide is widening within the Democratic party over the war in Iraq. Two top Dems don't agree on an exit strategy, as you've just heard. And all this comes as the party fights to take back control of Congress. Now some Democratic leaders are trying to take things in a new direction. Former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe joins us now. Before we get into a new direction, Terry, what am I supposed to make of no deadline from Hillary, must have a deadline now from John Kerry? What is a Democrat to think?
McAULIFFE: That George Bush has been a disaster in the war on Iraq.
GIBSON: Oh come on, Terry, Terry, you're looking at two top Democrats for leadership and you can't get a straight answer.
McAULIFFE: Listen, we are unified. We're unified that we went into the war the wrong way, not enough troops, no plan for peace and no weapons of mass destruction. Now, as it relates to a deadline, there are some Democrats who say six months, some say no deadline because we don't want to lose the leverage. But, that doesn't mean we're not unified as a party, that the war in Iraq.
GIBSON: Well, but Terry, that's all history. You're looking forward, especially with these 2008 candidates, if they can't decide what should we do next in Iraq, once again, how are Democrats supposed to sort this out? Now, I know what Republicans think. How are Democrats supposed to sort this out?
McAULIFFE: You know, here's George Bush, the commander in chief, and you control the House and the Senate and there's not a consistent position out of the Republicans. In fact, the Senate voted this year bipartisan, 2006 year of transition. We want to get our troops home as soon as possible. But on the fundamental issue of the dealing of Iraq, get these troops home and hand this government over to the Iraqis, we're not going to babysit them forever.
GIBSON: All right, that means no deadline.
McAULIFFE: Some Democrats are for a deadline, some aren't. Some Republicans for a deadline, some aren't.
GIBSON: What are you for, Terry?
McAULIFFE: What's that, John?
GIBSON: What are you for?
McAULIFFE: I want to get our troops home as soon as possible. I'm sick and tired of the Iraqis taking advantage our situation. I think we need to say to them, you've got your defense minister, you've got your interior minister, it's now a time for you to take over.
GIBSON: So you're on the Hillary's side?
McAULIFFE: I'm on the Hillary side. I've always been on the Hillary side.
GIBSON: So you're not on the John Kerry side?
McAULIFFE: On this particular issue, we Democrats just like Republicans, we beg to differ. I want our troops home as soon as possible.
GIBSON: All right, Terry McAuliffe is not on John Kerry's side on this one. We've got him pinned down. All right, Terry, new directions for the Democratic party, can the Democrats come up with a list of positions that's short enough to be appealing and still include the many groups you have under the big tent, many of whom who don't want to be left off the list?
From the June 14 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: Well, lots of cheers -- jeers, I should say, coming from a largely liberal audience, when she [Clinton] said that [she opposes a timetable for troop withdrawal] yesterday. My next two guests say it is time to talk about a more defined exit strategy. And one of them is a Republican. He's Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. The other is Democratic Congressman Martin Meehan of Massachusetts, who wants to start bringing the troops home by October. Congressman Paul, to you first. You are kind of odd in your party, in that respect. Explain exactly what you mean. It's not a timetable, per se, but -- well, you -- you explain.
PAUL: Well, all we are asking is for the president to give us a plan, to tell us when this war should end. Since the war wasn't declared, as it is should have been, under the Constitution, it is just too vague. And now we need to have a precise plan. But you say it is odd for a Republican to hold this position -- but not so. Just look back in our history. It was usually the other side that got us into wars, and Republicans came out political victors by saying, we are opposed to the war, like Korea and Vietnam and Kosovo and -- and Somalia. We took on -- took a position against the war. Mr. Republican, Robert Taft, was a noninterventionist, as I am. So, the Republican position has traditionally been more pro-American, nonintervention. So, I would say that we have left our path, the Republicans, and have joined in, in being interventionists and being nation-builders and policemen of the world, the very things that President Bush campaigned against in the year 2000.
CAVUTO: All right, it's a good point.